Sunday, May 11, 2008

Things To Do When The Writing Is Not Working....

So, as I mentioned, my current WIP has been the bane of my existence for the last few months. Nothing about this book was easy and I took a big chunk of time off in the middle of things to work out my aggression and try and get back on track and as I was working things out - I took some special notice of what I was doing and I thought I'd share it here.

First of all, I think for newer writers who perhaps have not finished a manuscript or have finished one that took them years to complete -- DO NOT STOP. DO NOT START THE NEXT BOOK. This becomes addictive - whenever the book gets hard (and it will, they always do, no matter what) it's simply too easy to drop it and start on the book that sounds so fresh and exciting in your head. You've got to push through - pushing through is the singular biggest learning experience in a writer's self-education. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more important.

That said, I think if you've been around the block with your muse a few times. You've got some finished work making the rounds with editors and agents. You've finished books and you know you will finish the current problematic WIP -- I really think the best thing to do is Stop. Stop pushing through. It's time to think and do some unraveling. Go for some walks, do some reading outside the genre (or some fantastic reading inside the genre), talk with friends. Get out of your own head.

For me, I know with this current WIP my problem was plot and not enough of it. So, I had to stop writing these scenes that were going nowhere and doing nothing (all written while I thought I had to push through) and scrap about 75 pages and go back and plot. For those of you who are pantsers and you hit the wall -- try plotting -- not a lot just to get you past the hump.

If you've got plenty of plot, take some time to look at your characters. I find a lot of times when things get rough it's because I need my characters to change and grow and I have not set it up properly, so that beautiful moment of self-realization falls flat and I end up writing a bunch of boring scenes, when what I should have done is gone back to the first three chapters and feed in all those questions that I want my reader asking.

I also find myself running out of conflict. And when this was a real problem for me a few books ago -- I had this terrible love/hate relationship with chapters 4 and 5. I realize now, it's because I didn't have that plot point that made the external conflict tie to the internal conflict. That end of the first act jaw-dropper. IE - in A MAN WORTH KEEPING - Delia calls her ex husband to tell him to leave them alone. My hero hears this and chooses because of all that internal conflict not to get involved. His internal gets all tied up in her external -- keeps things moving.

If all this fails you can do what Sinead does which is murder someone. Or, do what I do -- throw in a kid. Or what we should all try and do is be more like Maureen who figures this stuff out a head of time.

Hope this helps and PLEASE what are some of your tricks?


Abby said...

I go back and read McKee. Open the book in any spot, really.

He tells me that plot is character, character is plot. And I ask myself, what would this person do that is completely in her character that would make things more complicated?

Usually it comes from that question, though I admit I have to think about it for a while.

Molly O'Keefe said...

You know that's such a good point, Abby. I think I run into problems when I don't know my characters well enough before I start. This current disaster I'm working on -- I still didn't know my heroine's conflict or motivation at page 200. Disaster == and I kept thinking, well, I'll know her better if I just keep writing -- but it didn't work.

Wylie Kinson said...

I feel like you're speaking to me, Molly!
I'm having this dilemma in a supreme way and I'm about to give up. You're arguement makes sense and I'm going to keep plugging through :)

Anonymous said...

I now take time to really think about what needs to happen next, and now worry about page count as much.
I find it harder to rethink events after the fact than upfront.
I also make lists and immediately cross off the first three things I come up with.
Chances are they are my usual tricks..

And then I murder someone...

Maureen McGowan said...

This is all such great advice.

I used to think that just powering through was the answer, and maybe it is if you get stalled for too long, or, like you said, if you don't have many (or any) books under your belt. But I do think reflection time can really, really help.

As can some great writing books, as Abby suggested. I just listened to a bunch of the workshops from RWA Nationals on a long road trip and it helped me clarify my heroine's backstory/confict.

Kimber Chin said...

Abby, I could kiss you!

That is what I've only newly discovered.

The last manuscript I wrote was tough slugging. Why? Because I didn't know my characters. I didn't know what set them off so I was always reaching for conflict.

This current manuscript is writing itself. The characters are so vivid that I don't make any decisions, they do.

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